Memorandum by the Independent Park Home
Advisory Service (IPHAS) (DHB 12)
1. This submission from the Independent
Park Homes Advisory Service is to request the inclusion of a section
relating to mobile homes/park homes in the Housing Bill.
2. The Independent Park Homes Advisory Service
(IPHAS) was formed in 1993 to offer advice, information and assistance
to mobile home residents who may be having problems with park
home living because of troublesome park owners or other reasons.
It is run by a team of unpaid volunteers who have developed knowledge
of legislation pertaining to park homes and has a membership of
over 2,200 residents living on about 400 parks. Through an ability
to recognise all points of view in any dispute, it has gained
a good reputation and the respect of MPs, lawyers, local and national
government officials, CAB and the trade bodies for park owners.
I have been with IPHAS since 1994 and am now the senior consultant.
I am writing this on behalf of the IPHAS team.
3. Nearly 250,000 people live in mobile
homes, also called park homes, on approximately 2,200 parks or
sites. The legal position is unique in that they own their own
their homes but rent the land on which the home stands. The resident's
security of tenure is contained in the Written Statement in accordance
with the Mobile Homes Act 1983. The park is licensed by the local
authority in accordance with the Caravan Sites and Control of
Development Act 1960 which also empowers the authority to attach
site licence conditions.
4. Although park home living is recognised
as an excellent way of life, particularly for senior citizens,
an increasing number of parks are being purchased by rogue park
owners who are using their controlling position to deny residents
their rights and even to harass them into selling their home cheaply
to the park owner. It has been recognised that the Mobile Homes
Act 1983 and associated legislation contains a large number of
loopholes and anomalies which are used to advantage by these rogue
park owners. The All Part Group for the Welfare of Park Home Owners
was set up in the early 1990s to look into this problem. The chairman
is Hilton Dawson MP; the secretary is Lord Graham of Edmonton.
5. In 1998, the Park Homes Working Party
was set up under the control of DETR (later DTLR and now ODPM)
to identify the problems and discuss possible solutions. The Park
Homes Working Party Report was issued in July 2000. This was followed
by the Government Response to the Recommendations of the Park
Homes Working Party in November 2001. In the Foreword, Sally Keeble
wrote that the government "are committed to taking forward
the agenda for reform set out in this document . . ."
6. The government has also commissioned
studies into harassment of park home residents, local authority
of park home estates and economics of the park homes industry.
The government has recognised there is a problem and indicated
a readiness to deal with it. We have been given verbal assurances
from ministers that, although there is insufficient time for separate
legislation, the Housing Bill would be the logical vehicle for
introducing legislation on park homes. The initial issue of the
draft Housing Bill has wasted the opportunity for bringing in
this legislation. I suggest that piecemeal amendment to the existing
Parts to include park homes would be complicated and confusing.
The simplest method would be to state that mobile homes are excluded
from the existing Parts and to insert a new Part to deal with
park homes. This Part would mirror some items in the other parts,
eg, licensing scheme for landlords could be applied to park owners.
7. This new Part could follow the points
made in the Government Response to the Recommendations of the
Park Homes Working Party and would include the following:
A. Deleting the "age" criterion
for the termination of the Written Statement.
B. The "5 year rule" on the detrimental
effect a home may have on the amenity of a park should be replaced
with a warning procedure.
C. There should be a statutory right for
the recognition of residents' associations.
D. The protection against harassment available
to Park Home Owners should be on a par with that available to
private rented tenants.
E. The park owner should meet the criteria
for a "fit and proper" person before being granted a
F. Where a site license is revoked the local
authority will be required to develop a strategy for management
of the park.
G. Maximum fines for breach of site licence
conditions to be increased.
H. There should be a formal requirement
to notify the local authority before the completion of a park
sale so that the "fit and proper person" criteria can
J. All Local Authorities will be put under
a duty to attach, monitor and enforce conditions to site licences.
K. There should be a right for home owners
to be consulted on and appeal against licence conditions and proposed
L. Model Standards need to reflect best
practice on the provision of services such as gas, electricity,
water supply, drainage, sewerage and flood protection.
M. Written statements should be provided
in advance and signed and witnessed on the day of sale. The site
owner's failure to provide the statement would be an offence.
Additions to be made to the implied terms should include a requirement
to include details of services provided by the park owner, a pitch
plan showing the boundaries of the plot, the purpose of the pitch
fee and how it is reviewed, the right of the home owner to sell
and other matters.
8. Incidentally, on page 198 of the consultation
document, paragraph 213 implies that a mobile home does not qualify
as a "dwelling-house". For many years, whenever a dispute
has risen between home owner and park owner which goes to court,
the county court judge usually determines that because the home
is positioned on a park, is designed for habitation and connected
to the services, it is defined as a dwelling-house. The error
in the consultation document needs to be corrected without implying
inclusion of mobile homes in Part 5 of the Bill.
9. We recommend that a separate Part be
inserted in the Housing Bill to include legislation for park homes
as identified in paragraph 7 above. I am prepared to give oral
evidence to the Committee if requested.
Evaluating the Park Home Owners' Charter, University
of Birmingham, April 1996
Report of the Park Homes Working Party, DETR,
Government Response to the Recommendations of
the Park Homes Working Party, DTLR, Nov 2001
Harassment and unlawful eviction of private
sector tenants and park home residents, DETR, May 2000
Local Authority Licensing of Park Home Estates,
DETR, October 2000
Economics of the Park Home Industry, ODPM, October